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Amid gun debate, game investors express concern
Amid gun debate, game investors express concern
December 21, 2012 | By Mike Rose

December 21, 2012 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    48 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Following the tragic events that occurred in Newtown last week, video game investors are worried potential new legislation may lead to restricted sales of video games that depict acts of violence.

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a government figure who has long been concerned about the impact violent video games have on children, introduced legislation this week that directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study and investigation into the connection between violent video games and harmful effects on children.

The Senator's hope is that the study will find, within the next 18 months, whether violent video games do in fact have a unique impact on children.

As Doug Creutz of analyst group Cowen and Co. notes in an investor note today, it is not hugely surprising that Senator Rockefeller has chosen to scrutinize the link with video games rather than gun control, given that West Virginia has the fifth highest rate of gun ownership in the U.S. The lobbying power of the National Rifle Association (which on Friday said video games contribute to real-life violence) will no doubt have far exceeded that of the Entertainment Software Association in the area.

However, Creutz was quick to stress that video game investors should not be worried by this new legislation, nor should they be worried about any links being made between the tragedy in Newtown and violent video games.

This is because, first off, video games are protected under the First Amendment, as was firmly ruled last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore sales of violent games to minors cannot be banned.

But there is more to it than that, says Creutz. He suggests that, since most players of M-rated video games are adults (the average Call of Duty player is 29 years old, for example), fears that parents will stop buying mature games for their children are overblown, as parents by and large aren't buying video games for their kids anyway.

Adds Creutz, "We think any notion that lower future consumption of shooter titles by children represents a real risk to video game sales is misplaced."

We've been here before

Another point to factor into the equation: Haven't most adults already made up their minds about whether violent video games are a negative influence? Creutz argues that there have already been numerous studies carried out in a bid to link violent video games and violent acts, and these have always come back inconclusive.

"We believe that the vast majority of players of video games with violent content have already made their minds up on this issue and are unlikely to be swayed by recent events," he notes.

"The video game industry has been through this cycle several times before (most notably following the Columbine and Virginia Tech incidents) with no apparent impact on game sales. At this point, we think most adults have fairly well-formed opinions on the dangers, or lack thereof, posed by video games."

Creutz notes that titles in both the Call of Duty and Halo series have continued to sell well on Amazon in the last week, suggesting that the tragedy hasn't had an impact on video game shooter sales -- at least, not in the short-term.


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Comments


Dave Ingram
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I will say one thing: regardless of what anyone thinks about video games leading to or encouraging violence, games unquestionably make children better marksmen. Current-gen shooters also teach mental competencies such as situational awareness and tracking multiple moving targets. This may be why a child can take down 26 people so quickly rather than spraying bullets all over the walls. Something to think about...

Torben Jorba
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Kids that played videogames for 10 years (especially, but not only shooters) have the same reaction speed as fighter pilots. There are researchers who claim that playing +10 years of Starcraft-alike games gives you the same hand-eye coordination and multi-taskability of a neuro surgeon.

That doesn't mean they can fly planes or operate on brains. It just says that they acquired similar skills. Skills per se aren't good or bad. If, for example, someone stays cool under pressure, it can help in many real life situations like an accident or a fire. Having micro-hand coordination is good to avoid accidents when you are driving a car or doing any sort of sports that requires multi-tasking ability (like running and sensitively kicking a ball into a goal with some sort of spin).

Thats the reason this sort of "analyzing" is not very fruitful. If we teach kids to cook and to use a small knife to carve figurines out of wood, we could end up with a very skilled chef and artist. Or a person that can use a knife in a very bad way very creatively.

Adam Bishop
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The person who committed the shooting in Newtown was an adult, not a child. And he'd had actual training in using rifles, which probably does a lot more to explain his accuracy than playing video games does.

Ara Shirinian
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You seem to be the expert.

Brian Buchner
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Shooting in a video game is not at all like shooting a real gun of any sort and any comparison/correlation is tenuous at best. The skillset is completely different.

Cody Scott
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i take it you have never fired a real gun. I have friends that have grown up their entire lives playing FPS and cant hit a still target much less a moving one

Brandon Van Every
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How hard is it to shoot children? Really? All these excuses. Visualize yourself walking through a hallway, children screaming, and plugging them in the back with big handgun rounds. Imagine that you don't care, that this is just an activity to you. What's so hard?

People will not think about how doable this is because they are emotional and squeamish about guns. Rather than work through what it would realistically take to kill a lot of people, they mentally shut down, live in a world of fears, and then look for scapegoats. They will do nothing to solve the problems because they aren't even willing to understand the problems.

Jane Castle
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@Ingram..... Playing a video game and firing a real assault rifle are TWO completely different things.... You don't become a marksman or an elite sniper by playing Call of Duty.....

Dave Ingram
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I certainly hope the correlation is nonexistant as you say. I'm not a marksman so I wouldn't know. It just seems that things like leading a shot ahead of a running target, using cover strategically, using sound ques to track targets out of line of sight, using line of sight to your advantage, and other things are purely mental competencies that can transfer regardless of what a person is holding and actually firing.

Again, I truly hope you are right.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Dave Ingram - I have to agree with what Jane is saying. Playing a videogame and acting out a real life scenario are two different creatures, just like playing Guitar Hero and playing a real guitar. For a long time now, people tend to blame videogames for several things that tend to go wrong, but the truth is that people are the ones that commit wrongful acts by their own choice.

Melissa Highlander
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The truth is that we don't yet know all the factors and the magnitudes of influence our environment and our genes have on our choices to go school shooting. If anyone says it's not THIS, it's THAT! They're probably in the same pot. If the spice is in the stew as they say, it's going to be part of the final taste.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Torben Jorba
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They might think its easier to get a ban on certain weapons because it costs nothing.

Creating complex, profound laws that can force a person into a involuntary mental health checkup - especially hard overruling those always-right-and-never-wrong-parents-that-know-whats-best-for-timmie - is probably not only expensive, but nearly impossible to get done.

Adam Bishop
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I'd be curious to see a source on the claim that "the worst gun homicide rates tend to occur in states with the toughest gun laws". There's very good evidence that gun availability and gun violence are highly related:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns
-and-death/index.html

Jeferson Soler
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@ Adam Bishop - Thanks of the info!

Justin LeGrande
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The idea of small non-profit organizations, such as opensecrets.org (finds shadow money used in politics, i.e. Harvard funds both major political parties with millions of dollars), having more reputable information than wealthy corporations, such as the interconnected media giants, still has not sunk into many people's minds as plausible yet.

The first step to uncovering the truth is to turn off the television and log onto the internet for independent news sources. Reality is too ugly for many people to face head on, so they sequester it away. Psychological phenomena such as "cognitive dissonance" is too strong for many to overcome.

Adam Bishop
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"do you really trust Harvard?"

I trust peer-reviewed academic literature more than unsourced claims made in Internet comment sections. If anyone has data that contradicts the link I posted I'd be perfectly happy to read it.

Adam Bishop
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I've said multiple times that I'm open to examining evidence contradicting the information I've gathered elsewhere, but I'm afraid "there's a huge conspiracy, everyone is involved, and I'm not going to bother with evidence" isn't a very convincing rebuttal.

Brandon Van Every
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@Adam: try the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for some statistics on where the USA really sits relative to other countries.
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/
global-study-on-homicide-2011.html
It's not as wonderful as some places, and it's not anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be. Russia, Brazil, and South Africa all have very strict gun control and 2x..8x homicide.

Thomas Happ
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I kind of see it like this - liberals believe you should be able to talk and think about whatever you want, but not do what you want, whereas conservatives believe you should have the freedom to do what you want, but that your words and thoughts should be policed to keep you from talking or thinking about doing it.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Thomas Happ - I wish that things were that simple, but truth be told, nothing is black and white. Over the years, I ended up realizing that there are different types of liberals, of conservatives, of moderates, of centrists, and of extremists.

Maria Jayne
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It really doesn't matter how you control video game sales when any crazy can buy a gun.

When they start using video game cases or discs to murder people I'll be concerned about the sale of video games.

Neil Sorens
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You know that 95% of gun murders are committed with illegally obtained weapons (many stolen from or sold illegally by police and military), and not crazies legally buying weapons, right?

The root problem is the intent to kill, not the tools used to do so. Those are fungible. No AR15? Use a handgun, with much the same result. No handgun? Use a machete, homemade pipebombs or other explosives, homemade ricin or any number of posions, nailguns, chainsaws, or just a ton of bleach and ammonia and a few strategic barricades.

Do video games contribute to intent to kill? I don't know - I think it's unlikely. They may even do the opposite, providing a harmless outlet for those with the desire to kill. But I wouldn't write off the possibility without more substantial research than has been done.

Maria Jayne
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"The root problem is the intent to kill"

Intent to kill is made much easier by a gun, granted you may need more training to use it effectively and you can miss but a melee weapon is not as effective, we know this because that's why all military forces ended up using guns instead of swords and spears.

If you want to kill a lot of people safely, you get a gun, because melee can be countered with makeshift weapons. You can't pick up a chair and stop someone firing a gun at you.

Arseniy Shved
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Seems to me, if I'm allowed to carry a gun legally, I have more chance of defending myself from some psyco who will have it illegaly anyway.
Knowing that a potential victim is not defensless usually prevents from commiting crime. That is, of course, if a person is not completely nuts. But once again, I'd have more chance with a gun then without...

Jack Kerras
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Not every crazy can buy a gun.

There are many states (like Oregon, for example) where the Sheriff just having a bad feeling about you will keep you from getting your permit. You definitely have to go through safety courses to get a permit and, being a safety trainer myself, I have denied people permits who didn't show me they had honest respect for guns.

I'm very laid-back, but the first time someone scares me or makes me feel uncomfortable (and you better believe I carry my own gun while I'm on the range) they don't get a permit and that's all there is to it.

Also, intent to kill is made much easier by a gun, that's true.

That being said, it's also made much easier by renting a moving van and driving it into a playground. Or by loading a van full of fertilizer and driving it to, say, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

A lot of dangerous things exist. With nothing more dangerous than a couple of box cutters, a couple fellas got on a couple airplanes and changed the entire way our country views the Constitution, taking nearly three thousand innocent people with them.

Are guns easier to kill people with than fists or hammers or swords? Yes. Yes they are. But if I were aiming to rack up a bunch of dead folks on my way out, I guarantee you I'd do it with a truck or a bomb or an airplane, and it is easier and safer to hurt people (even by accident!) with any of those things than it is to do with a gun.

Willy Hwang
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Also, if you've been in a mental institution (in the US) (ie, involuntarily put into an in patient facility) then you cannot own a gun. Which I guess means if you've been caught being a crazy...

Justin LeGrande
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Studies conducted for projects such as "Grand Theft Childhood" have shown that computer games are highly unlikely to cause fits of violent behavior. Rather, computer games are a medium through which the problems in other parts of the individual's life or genetic condition are made visible. Computer games provide a mirror, not an agenda, of behavioral interpretations.

Justin LeGrande
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Personally, I equate any violence with villainy. Even if it's done to "mete out justice", or even to simply survive, I still do not see any form of violence as righteous under any circumstance, even if it is to apprehend or defeat a criminal.

The people who are so easily willing to kill others may not realize it, but they embrace the mantra of "my way or the highway". In fact, many people in the past relied solely upon circumstantial evidence, without requiring any substantial empirical evidence or due process; not even necessarily in established republics. Eventually, many people started looking at other ways to view the world; thus, "cheering for rogues" didn't seem so wildly different from the widely accepted roguelike behavior of, for example, foreign policy within American culture in the 19th century.

FYI, I regard my mother as an upstanding and self-respecting citizen; she allowed my sister and I to play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City when we were about 13 years old. We understood that the product was fictional, and thus had no bearing on reality; even I, who delved into computer games so often, was able to comprehend this. I personally took no pleasure in the less savory acts of that game, and did not find them to be anything I would want to emulate.

When I said that computer games provide a mirror, I did not mean that they literally reflect their narrative to bring a response out of the audience. I meant that the interpretation of the content provides a mirror of the audiences' souls- indeed, that is the greatest advantage of an interactive medium. A movie or book imparts a story, but in a game, the player participates in the story. Even in a linear game, the player's actions and understanding may differ, thereby affecting the drawn outcome based on not only mental, but also physical interpretation.

Thus, it is not an analogy at all to say that the player's actions in a game provide a more active opportunity for the player to either explore or reflect upon their beliefs more closely than is possible through a static medium.

kevin williams
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Ha ha - Good one Gamasutra - finding the only picture of a arcade shooter with kids - rather than using one of a console gun game - ha ha. nice try. Sorry guys, its the consumer sector they are after now - remember you guys said arcade is dead!

Amir Sharar
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In regards to this issue, a lot of what the industry has to deal with are not facts and figures, but rather general perception.

Note that perception doesn't necessarily have to line up with reality.

If I were to play the role of investor, the only thing that would scare me off from investing would be laws that limit the sales of games. The second thing that would scare me if retailers backlashed against the industry and refused to carry certain games. We recently saw something similar when Ke$ha's "Die Young" track, it barred from radio playlists nationwide recently. If a game and an actual tragedy were a little too closely related in theme, you could potentially see something similar.

Apart from those issues, Mr. Creutz's point about the industry not hurting from similar tragedies is enough for me to keep investing in the industry. Plus there is so much diversity with touch gaming and money to be made in non-violent (relatively speaking) games that investors couldn't really afford to ignore the industry, even if they chose to ignore certain parts of it.

k s
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Why was this ke$ha song banned from the radio stations?

Jeferson Soler
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@ k s - I didn't read any article about the details behind the banning, but I "heard" about Ke$ha's song being banned, and at that time, I guessed that the banned song was "Die Young". Based on what Amir just said, I can see that it was/is so and I thank Amir for passing along the information. Normally, the song from Ke$ha would be OK to listen to, but after what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, just hearing the title of the song would offend anyone as the key victims of the massacre were children. More than likely, the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre was the reason for banning the song from the radio.

Jeremy Parsons
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Since the whole video games breeding killers thing was in the news several years ago, I decided to look at it as a research project a few years ago for my Psychology degree. After all, I trust myself more than reading about a study and not knowing exactly how things were done or for what reasons.

I used violent (Halo) and nonviolent (Forza? was a racing game) video games. Looked at the differences between aggressive cognition in the immediate, short term and long term, as well as perception of helping behavior. While I would have liked a larger sample, the results I did get weren't significantly different from a statistical standpoint, in fact they were practically identical between the two groups.

Nathaniel Grundy
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Call me a pessimist, but I seriously doubt this will change anything. Anywhere. Hell, it's already yesterday's news and most of the public has forgotten about it.

Luis Blondet
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"Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a government figure who has long been concerned about the impact violent video games have on children, introduced legislation this week that directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study and investigation into the connection between violent video games and harmful effects on children."

I am curious; how about conducting a study between the connection of military atrocities and the harmful effects on children?

If legislators think that unethical behavior does not have any influence if it is conducted at the top political levels of our society, they are wrong. This is how leadership works with Humans; whatever the authority does it spreads and ripples across the population. Poor leaders ignore this out of sheer convenience, but every time we allow a pre-emptive war or display favoritism to friendly corporations or simply do favors for political strategy, the world is watching, the children are watching. Even though most of them might not be able to understand the entire conflict, they see the basics and in this case that is that we invade countries simply because they won't do things our way. I believe all of this bleeds down to the populous and we adopt the behavior locally in our lives.

A lord once asked Kong Fuzi what was the best way to find honest officers and he replied "By being honest yourself".

Justin LeGrande
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Very well put. We cannot expect genuine compassion in domestic policy when our political system so easily condones and ignores violence in foreign policy.

Thom Q
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"Another point to factor into the equation: Haven't most adults already made up their minds about whether violent video games are a negative influence? "

What does making up their minds have to do with anything?? What about the studies and the conclusions being drawn there? It's not that the largest vote makes it true or untrue...

Bisse Mayrakoira
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Look at the headline.
If everyone has made up their mind and isn't going to be persuaded by further studies, then the studies are irrelevant to game sales and investors' profits. What the studies conclude and whether those conclusions are true doesn't change that.

Thom Q
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Yeah, I know. My point was more that people are not even reading Any studies on the subject, and instead go with their gut. So it's a bit sad that yet again, investors are making money of the uninformed public. I'm sure there's a anti-evolution industry out there as well ;)

Jason Allaire
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Amid all the research supporting the positive effects of video games, investors should rejoice.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/174597/game_research_and_wh
at_it_means_.php

Kevin Fishburne
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Inflicting violence is in our DNA. It's reinforced and mitigated by our social and societal norms. We are violent, by curse and by choice. Everyone wants the "thing" that causes tragedy, but there's a web of many things running through all of us as a species. Social inequality, the loss of a loved one, our motivations, communications and expressions of creativity all paint our real-world gameplay opportunities with an ever-broadening palette.

Obviously trying to outright ban all guns period anywhere and all the time would reduce gun violence. The problem is those fools who wouldn't comply and later shoot people (like this time). The other problem is that guns are awesome and a lot of people enjoy using them. It's really embarrassing when a society has to lose a "God-given right to self defense and tons of fun too" because it can't keep guns away from unbalanced youths. People are giving way too much slack to "crazy" these days it seems.

The least-Orwellian Orwellian option I think of is to require the placement of unique RFID chips in each gun part (new law: NOOOOoooo) and modify all the cell towers to read them and transmit to the nearest server (new regulation: NOOoo). Cops could watch in near (lag and processing) real-time the positions of both guns and bullets using traffic cameras as the background and perspective projection. Cheap, efficient, unobtrusive, and they'd need a warrant to track your gun parts and ammo for that "citizen" feeling.

k s
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After seeing a lot of information on this completely unnecessary event I must conclude there were a lot of factors involved.

Lanza was predisposed to something (what isn't exactly clear), mental health failed to spot and help him, his parents did a poor job raising him, his mother shouldn't have trained him to shoot, she shouldn't have had so many guns in easy reach for him, the media glorified past manicures, American society loves violence a little too much, the whole 2012 BS.

It was a lot of things that coalesced into a tragic event but video games likely had nothing to do with it and in fact had he been an avid gamer (which by the sounds of it he wasn't, maybe a casual one though) he may been able to release his violent urges in a safe manner with out hurt anyone.

Cordero W
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Games do need to wrestle with the issues of social responsibility.

Unfortunately, a lot of comments here sound similar to those of the NRA. And the game industry tends to make the same comments. And you wonder why our industry isn't taken seriously.

Justin LeGrande
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Well, firearms are viewed as a viable answer in many games, which is interestingly a reflection of many Americans' acceptance of solving all their toughest problems through firearms, like barbarians.

Speaking of which, when I tried to question the NRA with this:

"So if it's OK to keep semi-automatic firearms or handguns, is it OK to keep crossbows with darts that can be tipped with cyanide or tranquilizers? Is it OK to keep extensible bladed weapons or lethal injectors? Is it OK to keep and mix deadly or corrosive chemical concoctions? Is it OK to keep stun guns and tazers?"

They banned me from posting on their Facebook page... buncha cowards...

Jeferson Soler
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@ Justin LeGrande - I agree with what you and Cordero said. Also, don't waste your time trying to talk with the people in charge of NRA. They won't even listen to some of their own members, who are actually OK with a ban on assault rifles and assault magazines. NRA's VP LaPierre himself practically blamed videogames and movies for violence on his recent speech (which was more like a NRA sales pitch), so it is pointless to talk to someone like him at this point.

Brandon Davis
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Many of us have been down this road before.

Now we have a Senate committe (the same clowns that think we should arm the country with Bushmasters) attempting to shift their psychopathologic politics on to the video game industry. It's again time for the game industry to foment their own research on such issues. While we're at it we should see how many members of British royalty kill their kingly spouses after watching Hamlet!

Politicians are at their best when deflecting their own irresponsible behavior on to someone, or something else. In the country's most recent tragedy in Sandy Hook, the disturbed shooter spent hours with his mother at a private shooting range. Funny, or not so funny, none of the deadbeat politicians have talked about shutting down target ranges across the country.

Mass murders in schools, theaters, malls, homes, etc. are about a country with no control over guns, not video games. The oft quoted, but little understood, 2nd Amendment is a poor excuse on the part of the NRA to sell guns and support the gun manufacturers' industry. Indeed, without money from the gun manufacturers, the NRA's Wayne Lapierre is just another devious sociopath trying to make a buck.

Time for the video game industry to sponsor an updated version of unbiased research, of which the Senate committee would not have the cojones to pursue.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Brandon Davis - "Time for the video game industry to sponsor an updated version of unbiased research, of which the Senate committee would not have the cojones to pursue."

I'm all for that strategy


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